Today I had my last fundraiser for my trip to Kenya. I’ve learned a lot this past year in fundraising and asking for donations, so I thought I would share a few tips with you.
- Make sure your heart is in the right place. I made a post about this, how I realized I needed to trust God to help me get the money I needed. Before you send out your letters, make sure to pray over them, and over yourself. Make sure your heart is right before God. If He told you to do what you’re doing, he will provide for you. You have to trust Him.
- Be direct. Explain clearly. Don’t beat around the bush when writing your letters. I learned this the hard way. I didn’t explain well enough that donations needed to be sent to my church (I was following a template I found online. Next time I will be more clear) and got a few checks made out to me instead, which made it impossible for me to be able to send them a tax-deductible receipt.
Have a middleman. This can be your church or the organization you are going with. This will keep you honest, and honest looking. Even if you would never abuse someone’s donations, it will prevent any future issues where someone might try to slander you.
- Write thank you notes as you go. I didn’t know this, but you are supposed to send thank you notes within two weeks of getting a letter. Also, I would suggest personalizing the thank you note, and writing it by hand. This shows the person you did not write them simply because you wanted money, but that you appreciate what they did for you.
- Give a receipt. This should be obvious, but it’s best to give a receipt along with the thank you note, with the amount they donated and a date, so they can use it as a tax deduction. Also, you should keep track of your expenses on your trip, so that you can show donators what their money went towards. I wrote that if they wished for an account of my expenses, they could ask for it at the end of my trip.
- Be open. Be open to suggestions from friends and family. I had one friend who offered to let me wear origami owl jewelry-for free-and also host a party where the money went towards my trip-for free. I didn’t make a lot this way, mostly because I am not that good at selling things. At first I was really nervous, I’m a terrible salesman. But then I realized, it was all for free, it wouldn’t take a lot of my time, and there was no reason not to do it. So I did. I only sold two items. That’s still money towards my trip.
- Count the cost. The first fundraiser I did was for Cindi Mendoza’s girl school. I hosted a pancake breakfast on a Saturday, and invited several churches. I worked really hard and spent a lot of time on it. I believe I got maybe 40 people. 40 out of 500. In the end it worked out and I got about $300 for Mrs. Mendoza, but I learned my lesson-don’t start out with grand events. Start small, and as you gain a following and experience, grow big. If possible, try to get a head count at the beginning, and get a feel for how much are going to come.
- Have a core group. I cannot stress this enough. Those 40 people who came? They were my friends and family. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were my core group. These are the people who will root for you, that want to help you, and that support you. They are very important. Never forget them, because without them, you would never have gotten off the ground.
- Branch out. You cannot rely on your core group forever-they are not a bottomless pit. I don’t have a lot of experience in this area as this past year is the first time I started trying to fundraise. I believe the best course of action is to be friendly and get to know more people-as well as your friend’s friends. I think the key here is to not get to know them for fundraising purposes, but because you like them.
- Get to know the insiders. A friend of mine is a teacher at a private Christian school, and the advisor in charge of the student’s ministry group. She was excited to hear I was going to visit Mrs. Mendoza, and helped me organize a pancake fundraiser at the school. She spoke to the people in charge, and helped me get it all set up. The student’s ministry group even bought the ingredients for me- all I had to do was show up to cook the pancakes, no jumping through hoops required. It was a wonderful experience. I am super grateful to her. If I had been on my own, there is no way I would have ever gotten to do this.
- Be flexible. Today, as I mentioned, we had a fundraiser at a private school near my house. We had done one in December, and this was our second one. We were all prepped, and ready to go when-surprise! There was a hiccup in the plans. Another group was already using the kitchen; we had accidentally been double booked. My mom and I put our heads together and concluded to cook the pancakes at home and bring them over (since it’s not a long drive). It worked. The pancake fundraiser went off without a hitch. Despite the slightly stressful beginning, it went better than the first.
- Always be grateful. No matter if 10 people show up at a 100 people event, or if you made $100 instead of $500, be grateful. These people did not have to help you. They worked for that money, and they deemed your mission, your dream, important enough to donate some of that money to you. So be grateful. Make sure to thank them and remember them. Don’t worry about the other 90 people that didn’t show up, and don’t let it hurt your feelings. Be grateful, and remember them.